By Roger McKinney
NEOSHO, Mo. —
Under a proposal put forward Tuesday night by the Neosho City Council, the Neosho Transportation Development District would continue until a city-controlled community improvement district would take its place.
City officials say they hope that plan can end a months-long dispute between the city and the TDD board. After a disputed TDD board election in June, the city filed legal action challenging the validity of the TDD. The filing alleged that when the TDD was formed, the wrong state statute was used.
A court hearing on the challenge is scheduled for Friday.
“We’re doing our best to try to avoid having the judge intervene,” said Mayor Richard Davidson. Davidson said an email from the TDD attorney was the basis of the plan.
TDD board chairman Ray Stipp and member Steve Roark attended the council meeting, chatting with council members before it started.
Those on both sides said they had hope in the plan, but uncertainty remained.
Under the city proposal, the TDD’s half-cent sales tax would continue at least long enough to pay its debts, and the TDD wouldn’t incur any further debts. Stipp said after the meeting that the TDD’s only debt is a $150,000 loan. The tax would be suspended when the debt was paid.
The TDD began collecting the tax in January to pay for $4.5 million in transportation projects along the retail area of U.S. Highway 60 in Neosho. The Missouri Department of Transportation has agreed to add $2.4 million toward those projects, for a total of nearly $7 million.
Those on both sides said Tuesday night that they thought MoDOT would extend the agreement to a community improvement district, or CID.
The CID could take 45 to 60 days to form. Under the proposal, it would accept all the projects in the TDD plan.
“To the extent that the TDD can get them done, we can get them done,” Davidson said.
Members of the CID board would be appointed by the city. The TDD board members are elected by property owners in the TDD area. Councilman Charles Collinsworth said that was key to his acceptance of the plan.
“I want a board that is accountable to the people,” Collinsworth said. “A board representing the taxpayers.”
He said the City Council is responsible to the 11,000-plus residents of Neosho, not just 27 property owners within the TDD boundaries.
Councilman Steve Hart said he wants the plan to work.
“It’s time we came together as a community,” Hart said. He said that under the plan, the people would win.
He said that if it didn’t succeed, he would be willing for the city to take on projects including extending Hale McGinty Drive with existing tax increment financing funds..
Before the council went behind closed doors to work out details of the plan with City Attorney Steve Hays, Stipp and Roark made a final appeal to Hart to make sure his fellow council members knew how important it was that the TDD continue until the CID is established.
“That’s huge,” Stipp said.
“That’s our big deal,” Roark said.
Hays said he would present the plan to the TDD board’s attorneys, with the TDD board likely considering it on Thursday. It wasn’t clear if the court hearing would be held as scheduled Friday or if the judge would issue an order based on what the attorneys present.
Roark said after the meeting that the plan presented by the city appears to be largely the same plan the TDD attorneys presented on Nov. 2.
Stipp said the TDD continuing as an entity until the CID is established is important to retaining MoDOT’s involvement.
“We don’t necessarily care about control,” Stipp said. “We would hate to lose $2.4 million.”
Davidson said that when the dispute is resolved, he would like all parties to work toward the same goal.
“We all have a vested interest, and we all want to see these projects completed,” Davidson said.
CITY ATTORNEY STEVE HAYS said a community improvement district board would propose and vote on a new tax when it is established.